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WEEKLY BOOK REVIEW

RAVING FANS [by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles] This week, we examine Raving Fans, a book that portrays the decaying relationships between professionals and their clients. The book shows the demise of basic customer service in modern society and what can be done to get it back. It’s written in the context of the business world and offers worlds of advice that attorneys can use in their own practices to keep their customers coming back.

It’s a basic tenet of legal practice that attorneys act with a degree of professionalism toward their clients. Any attorney can recite the basic ethical rules in their sleep. Sure, we owe our clients the duties of diligence, competence, faithfulness, communication and good judgment, as well as respect, but in meeting these duties, are we creating happy clients? Are we creating raving fans, who return time and time again with their legal matters and who recommend us to their friends and associates? Is our customer service as good as it could be? Isn’t winning the case enough?

customers.

Raving Fans, the latest book from business authors Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles, asks these questions and gives the reader some insight on how to create not just satisfied customers, but raving fans.

Is this Raving Fans ideology overly simplistic? Yes. But, there are some good basic ideas to be expunged.

So, how exactly do we create these raving fans? In this simple story, Charlie teaches us his three tenants of customer service: (1) Decide what you want, (2) Discover what your customer really wants, (3) Deliver, plus one percent. The department manager then goes back to work, applies Charlie’s rules, becomes president of his company, and everyone lives happily ever after--in true fairy-tale format. If it were only that easy.

Raving Fans is written in the guise of a simple parable. It relates the story of a new department manager on his first day of work. He is flatly told to fix the department’s customer service problems A.S.A.P. or find a new job. Unsure of how to create happy customers, the department manager is suddenly presented with a fairy godfather, Charlie, who teaches him the secrets of how to fix his inadequate customer service.

First, decide what you want. In other words, in a perfect world, what would your practice look like? You cannot create raving fans without knowing exactly what you want and where you are going. Basically, this is simply the clarity of ideas and the creation of a plan to administer your vision of perfection. Besides winning cases, what do you want your clients to love about your practice? Do you want them to feel comfortable? Do you want them to feel safe and taken care of? Knowing exactly what you want is the first step.

Charlie explains that customer service is horrible in today’s society. In fact, it is so bad that anything apart from truly horrendous service is accepted. Consumers can no longer conceptualize what good customer service is, much less come to expect it. So in this environment, those with truly exceptional service will excel. The basic theme is that we need to create not only satisfied customers, but raving fans--truly ecstatic

Second, what do your clients want? What do they think about your practice? This is the most important idea that can be derived from this book. Consumers have grown to accept inadequate performance. Bad service is the status quo in today’s world. Many say nothing when they are dissatisfied. Therefore, you must listen to what your clients are telling you, and you must also notice the silences. Because your clients are not complaining

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does not mean they are happy. Lack of service has created apathetic consumers who feel complaining may not do anything but waste their time. So, ask your clients what they want, what you are doing well, and what you could be doing better. Politely “force” them into answering those questions instead of just assuming they are satisfied. Third, deliver. Good ideas and good intentions are worthless without proper delivery. But delivery plus one percent? This translates into not trying to put every one of your ideas into play at one time. You will get overwhelmed. Doing too much at one time decreases the quality of the improvements. Instead, perfect your current services, and then each week improve upon this service one percent. In one year’s time, you will have improved your practice 52 percent. Raving Fans does lack some real-world examples and business common sense. The basic business implications of creating your ideal practice are simply brushed under the rug. Cost implications such as labor and rent are ignored. Charlie also suggests letting your support staff in on the raving fan dogma and allowing them to become raving fan converts. He claims that your staff will become raving fans of you yourself. But this ignores the possibility that it may take more than a simplistic motivational book to create a perfectly happy support staff. Raises, promotions, benefits, and a good 401-K plan all come into play here. You will love or hate the style of this very quick read. Told in a fairy-tale format and seemingly written for someone with only a continued on back


WEEKLY BOOK REVIEW

third-grade reading ability, the style may put one off. A colleague referred to the saccharine-laced delivery as a full blown intellectual assault that was more suitable for his over-achieving nine-year-old daughter than for legal and business professionals…a literary equivalent of junk food. However, after reading legalese for 10 hours, I didn’t mind the overly simplistic format. 700-page business treatises on how to perfect our work lives can’t intrigue us all, can they? Its base simplicity was actually rather amusing and entertaining. Of course, by reducing the 14-point font and the very large pre-schoolesque margins, this book could easily be converted into a long magazine article--but where would the profit be in that? Although Raving Fans contains some practical nuggets of information, it by no means presents any new and revolutionary ideas. What it does excel at is motivating you to think about your clients and how you can improve the services you do provide. It lays out a basic common-sense approach to improvement--think about what you want and what your clients need beyond your basic legal services, and then provide the best service you possibly can. Raving Fans’ basic mantra of treat your clients well and your practice will flourish seems simple enough, but many businesses are failing somewhere in this equation. If anything, Raving Fans will make you realize how poorly consumers are treated. Experiences like waiting in line for 20 minutes to hand my money over to an indifferent grocery cashier and unhelpful representatives are far too common. This causes one to drive out of his or her way to visit establishments that treat their customers as they would want to be treated--with respect. Maybe this seemingly simple little book is onto something after all.

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RAVING FANS